It’s understandable to want to do the right thing and to step in to help. But in domestic violence cases, intervening may put victims and bystanders in harm’s way.
If you witness or hear a violent incident, do not intervene on your own, as this can result in you being injured. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
Understand and respect that for various reasons not all victims and survivors will want the police to become involved in their situation. However, some situations are emergencies where the victim’s life may be at risk, and calling 911 is the best option. If you observe that someone is in immediate danger and choose to report domestic violence, be prepared to talk with law enforcement and to write a statement about what you observed, and possibly testify in court. Many times domestic violence victims and survivors are unable to testify due to the fear of retaliation by the abuser.
If you suspect someone is experiencing domestic violence, you can ask the person questions, such as:
- How are things going?
- How is your relationship?
- How do you resolve arguments?
- Has your partner put their hands on you to hurt you in anyway?
- Do you feel safe at home?
If you are uncomfortable asking the person about their relationship, you can always call the local domestic violence program in your community to talk about the situation. The domestic violence program will never tell you if they are already assisting the victim, but if they are, this may be a way for them to follow up with them without disclosing that you called to share concerns for that person’s safety.
Victims know their abuser’s behaviors best and know when they are safest. Respect the victim’s choices about what would work best for them and what steps they can or cannot take. The best thing to do is to encourage the person being abused to call their local domestic violence program to a access a variety of free and confidential services to get them to safety and to help them rebuild their lives.
The most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim is when the victim leaves. This is why it is so important for victims to talk with a domestic violence advocate to assist in creating a safety plan before leaving.